Drug detection dogs are specially trained dogs within the K9 unit. They are specially trained to locate drugs/ narcotics by sniffing out the scent. They can be trained to locate several drugs, such as marijuana, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, opiates, etc.
These dogs are not only found being used by Police, but other agencies as well in areas such as border crossings and airports. There are even private companies that have drug sniffing dogs that can be hired to run patrols/ checks of workplaces or other private areas. We are now actually seeing drug detection dogs being used in schools to check student lockers and hallways in the fight against drugs.
How do drug dogs become trained to locate drugs?
Drug dogs look for drugs not to become high or stoned, but because they just want to play! What happens is that when these dogs are being trained, they associate a toy with the smell of the drug. When they locate the drug, they are rewarded by getting the chance to play with their favorite toy, which is often a towel or a rag.
Often times, when the dog is being trained, the smell of the drugs is rubbed into the towel by placing the drug inside and wrapping it up. The dog is exposed to the towel, and eventually, the dog is exposed to a towel that looks the same, except without the scent of the drug.
When the dog is doing a search, and smells a quantity of drugs, it gets excited because it associates the smell with the toy. At that point, it alerts the handler, usually by sitting down and stopping rather than continuing forward. At other times (depending on if the dog is trained this way) the dog will "paw" or scratch at the location of the scent. The handler pulls out a hidden towel from a pocket, and the dog is rewarded with a few seconds of playing with the "toy", before the towel is put away and the dog continues on looking for more drugs.